It's said that love and hate are two sides of the same coin. I can't say if that's true in all cases, but it certainly sums up my feelings about music festivals. All the things I love about them are also the things I hate. Short sets, divided attention, being forced to make decision of this band or that band, all day long: It's either a nightmare or a dream, depending on the festival. At UMS, it was the perfect situation: Lots of bands I've seen, lots of bands I've been meaning to see, no set schedule and no fear that this might be my only chance ever to see any given band, which means no pressure to make the "right" choice for any given time slot.
My first stop was to pick up credentials, which took me to the outdoor main stage. The Heyday was launching into a set of its polished, radio-friendly pop-rock. I admire the obvious talent of this band, despite the fact its music doesn't exactly suit my tastes, so after a couple of songs I headed over to Indy Ink.
As usual at a festival of this magnitude in a city as intimate as ours, the journey took roughly four times as long as it technically should have, for the simple fact that every fifteen feet I ran into someone I hadn't seen in a while. Despite that, I still arrived in time to grab a $1 donation beer (cheapest beer at the fest? Probably!) from the Indy Inkers and have a couple quick conversations before Hideous Men started.
In their first gig after losing their gear to a car burglary, the duo sported some sweet black and white cowled capes. The loss didn't seem to slow them down much, as they delivered a strong set of fractured, noisy, hip-hop-spiked dance-pop. There's something about their music that always makes me think of a cassette tape melting as it plays, and I mean that in a good way. It was surprising that their electronics-heavy sound worked so well live. I think the capes helped. Capes always help.
A phone call pulled me away from the action for a while, but i returned to catch the end of Married in Berdichev's dreamy, floating delay-line based set. It reminded me in some strange way of Bjork -- it didn't exactly sound like Bjork just recalled it somehow. Definitely intriguing, but I didn't catch enough to really form a solid opinion. On my way out I caught the end of American Tomahawk, with Zach Tipton guesting -- which made it sort of a Young Coyote's show with American Tomahawk songs. Cool!
Next stop: 3 Kings Tavern for a dose of surf rock from Maraca 5-0. I'm not the world's biggest surf fan, but the group's reputation preceded it and I wanted to give them a chance. It was worth the stop, both for the fact that it was a fun set of moody, atmospheric surf -- lots of tremolo and reverb, good grooves and attitude. Did it change my mind about surf as a genre? No. Was it a good time? Yes. Also, there was a couch at 3 Kings, so I took the opportunity to sit on my ass and recharge, which was nice.
Surf rock down, I headed to see Air Dubai at Import Warehouse, to see if that band's rep was deserved. Short answer: It was. Totally. Good-time party rap/funk/soul, delivered with verve and style and the crowd ate it up. There weren't a lot of people standing still, which means Air Dubai managed to pierce the veil of hipster detachment that pervades so many of these shows. They also overcame hellish heat and terrible sound (Import Warehouse is just concrete, steel and musically ugly surfaces) to deliver a really fun show. Not too shabby. Is the act 100 percent there yet? No, there's work to be done. But when it gets there, watch out: these dudes will be unstoppable.
Astra Moveo followed but weren't quite up to the task. The terrible sound torpedoed any energy they brought, and some technical difficulties that induced some annoying delays finished killing any enthusiasm I had. It didn't help that the canned beats came off as listless and uninspired. Maybe it's the extended hiatus the act took -- hopefully it gets it all together before the next show. That was it for me -- I was done. Apart from meeting a few interesting characters on my bus ride home (public transportation FTW!), my night's adventure was over.
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